2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Maintaining Forward Momentum

Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

Which teams are looking to carry forward good feelings from 2013?

The key to creating program momentum doesn't simply involve increasing wins from season to season. Rather, it's more about improving -- tangibly -- from year to year, showing notable growth in execution and performance. Isolated excellence does not necessarily indicate a change in program volition; it's sustained performance development over a series of campaigns that ultimately determines which programs are moving in a positive direction and are potentially on the verge of establishing residence in a new competitive tier of Division I lacrosse.

To determine which teams have created the most forward momentum going into 2014, I looked at Pythagorean win expectation changes from 2010 to 2013. (Pythagorean win expectation measures a team's expected win percentage -- not actual win percentage -- based on a team's adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies.) I then averaged the changes over the three periods -- 2010 to 2011, 2011 to 2012, and 2012 to 2013 -- to determine which 10 teams have improved -- on average -- the most over the periods. The results:

PROGRAM MOMENTUM: TOP 10 IN AVERAGE PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION GROWTH SINCE 2010
TEAM AVERAGE PYTH. WIN EXP. CHANGE RANK
Lehigh +11.56% 1
St. John's +11.01% 2
Air Force +10.30% 3
Providence +9.78% 4
Pennsylvania +9.51% 5
Penn State +8.87% 6
Albany +8.40% 7
Yale +4.94% 8
Bellarmine +4.94% 9
Loyola +4.44% 10

These are all teams to watch in 2014 to see if they can continue their powerful development, but a few stand out as especially notable entering the coming season:

  • Lehigh and Yale: Both programs have established themselves as NCAA Tournament participants in recent seasons and major players in their respective conferences, but both teams lost significant contributors from 2013. Is there enough talent in Bethlehem and New Haven to continue each program's upward trajectory? There aren't many coaches that are as strong as Kevin Cassese and Andy Shay, and with both still on their university's respective payrolls, potential exists for both the Mountain Hawks and Bulldogs to continue their rise in success.
  • Providence: The Friars took a gigantic step forward in 2013, but the team's performance change from 2012 to 2013 wasn't the sole reason that the Friars finished in the top 10: The Friars experienced double-digit Pythagorean win expectation increases from 2010 to 2011 and 2012 to 2013 (10.54 percent and 13.55 percent, respectively). Providence is a team moving in the right direction, and with Chris Gabrielli at the helm, great possibilities exist for the Friars in 2014.
  • Pennsylvania: This is exactly why Mike Murphy's program is arguably the most undervalued team entering the coming spring: While the Quakers haven't put together impressively large win totals over the periods examined (and had a disastrous effort in 2012), the Quakers were the largest performance gainers from 2012 to 2013 and basically lose two big contributors from last year -- Anthony Santomo and Tim Schwalje -- with every other major asset returning.
  • St. John's: If St. John's hadn't lost to Georgetown on Long Island last season and made the Big East Tournament, would the Johnnies have more heat on them in 2014? Jason Miller has done a really nice job in Queens, and with Kieran McArdle still in the fold, the Johnnies are quietly existing in a strong position.

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